What Happens When We Meditate?

What are we actually doing when we meditate? That’s a good question to which there are all kinds of answers. I’ll give you a couple to think about. First of all, when we meditate, awareness is becoming aware of awareness. No matter what state or frame of mind you’re in—your mind may be chattering about a movie, the book you’re reading, a conversation you just had, the commercials you saw on the freeway—when you start to meditate, all that stuff comes up. That’s fine! That’s the stuff of the human mind. Just let it be there. 

But what happens when we stay with that? When we meditate longer, we get there. I know because I meditate a lot because I need to. (Laughs) For me, after about 45 minutes to an hour, I usually get through all the chatter stuff and that’s when things start to shift. 

Most of the time, we think we’re our thoughts…

After a time, we start to become aware of ourselves as the context—not just the content. Most of the time, when we run around in our lives, we think we’re our thoughts, we think we’re our emotions, we think we’re our body. That’s our experience. It’s also relatively true.

But when we keep relaxing into the openness, we find we are the context that everything arises from. When we don’t only identify with the content, we start to become free. Then it begins to expand, and we think… Oh! And the context in which everything arises moment to moment starts to include the whole universe. 

We ask, what does it mean if we’re context and not all content?

And we get beyond that to the great mystery of the self; it’s not even limited by time. Not only are we one with everything that arises in the moment, we’re one with everything that arises, that ever has arisen, or ever will arise, because we—as presence, as context—are not limited by the dimension of time. Time is just another part of the content that arises from pure awareness.

So no matter what the content of the moment—whether you’re having a good day or a bad day or you just listened to the news—you’re thinking, oh my God! We are the context.

what happens when we meditate

We can become free and experience deep joy…

When we put that together in our meditation, we can become free and we can experience deep joy, deep remembrance, and deep presence. From that place of freedom, we can go back into the content of our world and the content of our lives, and handle it from the perspective that this is a role I’m playing, this is what I’ve been assigned in my little, John Dupuy body-mind self that arises moment to moment from what I have always been. Then we can choose to play the game with more wisdom, more skillfulness, more joy, more forgiveness—for both ourselves and others. Right? 

Psychiatrist, teacher, and award-winning author Dr. Roger Walsh said once that spiritual progress happens one body length at a time, as we continually fall on our faces: we make mistakes, we try to do better, we do things that are kinder and wiser, or maybe we’ve lost years of our lives in certain directions, but then we come back. We do come back.

But it’s easy to get lost in the content…

But it’s easy to get lost in the content and forget we are the context. That’s why we need an ongoing practice. It’s like, well, I took a shower in 1968, and I was clean. Why should I take a shower again? (Laughs) Because nobody wants to be around you. You smell bad. In other words, we have to keep cleaning the windows of our perception. 

Hey, I’m no longer existentially lost!

When we get to the identification or experience of being the context, we begin to understand the content of what our individual self is supposed to be doing at a much deeper level, a soulcentric level. “Hey, I’m no longer existentially lost! I know what I am! Always have been, always will be. All worlds arise in what I am and what you are. Then we can begin to act from that soulcentric level.

what happens when we meditate

When we have these nondual experiences, it doesn’t mean we can just check out and live in bliss. We have to come back into the world. We don’t have to be perfect before we start acting like bodhisattvas. And we can all be bodhisattvas—people who stay in the world, stay on the wheel of life, in order to alleviate the suffering of all beings. We can begin to play that role with greater wisdom, greater compassion, greater skillfulness, and also greater trust in the intuitive nature of the wisdom that comes from our deepest part, that emerges out of the being whom we all are. 

Then it becomes quite extraordinary; we can face everything that happens with a clear heart and a clear mind: life, death, joy, happiness, injustice, this, that, and the other.

We need to wake up now. We need to practice.

We need to wake up—now. This is a very crucial time in our evolution, and it’s either going to go really badly or really well. We can’t just get lost in the context. We’ve got to get free and remember who and what we are. 

So let me encourage everyone to do your daily practice. Has your life become practice-centric? Do your meditation and deal with the shadow stuff that emerges. Do your physical practice to keep your mind and body fit and strong, so you can be of service to the world. 

If you’re starting to meditate and you feel great pain, just say, “Thank you, teacher. What am I here to learn?” Just be present with it and hold it. Let it be there, experience it fully, and at the same time be totally free. It takes work, but it’s a wonderful journey, and we’re in it together.


John Dupuy iAwake Technologies Deep Sleep Meditation

John Dupuy is the CEO of iAwake Technologies and travels internationally to teach and inspire on the subjects of Integral Recovery, Integral Transformative Practice, and the use of brainwave entrainment technology to deepen one’s meditation practice and in the treatment of addiction, depression, and PTSD. John is the founder of Integral Recovery® and his book Integral Recovery: A Revolutionary Approach to the Treatment of Alcoholism and Addiction  won the 2013 USA Best Book Award. John also hosts interviews with leading innovators in the spiritual technologies field on Spiritual Technologies 2.0 Live and co-hosts the podcast Meditate On This!


Heidi Mitchell

This blog was edited from a talk John gave following iAwake’s first live, WeAwake online meditation. Heidi Mitchell has been working with John for 12 years as assistant and editor. John introduced her to Integral theory and practice and brainwave entrainment enhanced meditation in 2007. Heidi is also a freelance editor of nonfiction books, blogs, and web sites. She can be reached at www.heidimitchelleditor.com.

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